Sunday, May 5, 2013

Interview of Vincent Salafia: Hill of Tara to Brú na Bóinne

In the prior blog post, Vincent had brought the story to the Hill of Tara and how a wooden henge called Lismullin had seemed to be significant enough to at least delay the construction of the M3 road. Would the European Union act to protect such an important heritage site?

Question: What happened with the complaints to the European Union?

What happened was the legal process here required the Minister to make a decision to approve for the demolition of the Lismullin site. The EU wrote to Ireland saying they believed this decision was in breach of EU law, that the discovery of the site should have triggered a new environmental impact assessment and that work should cease. However, the Irish authorities ignored the European Union and went ahead and destroyed the site. The European Union didn’t feel strongly enough about it at the time to go into court and seek an injunction to stop it. No intervener here succeeded in getting before a court to stop it. Nothing stopped it.  Sadly, the EU did actually succeed in its legal challenge to the authorization given by Dick Roche, the Minister for the Environment, but it was too late to do any good. His decision to order the bulldozing of Lismullin was found to be in breach of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive by the European Court of Justice.

The M3 road opened in 2008.

It wasn’t too long after that the proposal to build the Slane bypass came up.

I read in the paper in 2009 there was an advertisement in the paper which included a map showing where they were going to upgrade the road from Dublin to Derry. The M3 motorway was replacing the N3 road up to Derry. Approximately seven miles to the east was the N2 road which they were going to make the M2 motorway.  There were going to be all these motorways going north out of Dublin. When I saw the ad in the paper, I was horrified for a number of reasons:

a.    It was way too close to Newgrange and the Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Site.
b.    Also I was horrified of the prospect of a third major campaign which caused me to say to myself, “I can’t do any more of this.”

I waited over Christmas and coming into the New Year. I waited to see if An Taise, locals, or anyone would kick up to get a campaign going.  The period for public consultation was rapidly coming to an end.  With two weeks to go, basically, nobody had said diddly. After I had built up a lot of Facebook contacts and email contacts, I decided to launch a campaign off the back of that.

I started a Facebook group called Save Newgrange and sent out a lot of invitations. Within a week we had over 10,000 members on our Facebook group. We had a lot of petition signatures and a lot of submissions got made before the deadline. That was the objective – in the space of that two weeks, to get a lot of objections in and we succeeded.

There were public hearings that were held once the deadline was closed. That particular situation was similar but very different in a lot of ways to the other campaigns.  In Slane, which is a village very near Newgrange, the overall N2 road that was being upgraded was part of this much larger project to connect Dublin with Donegal and build the longest motorway in Irish history. The motorway would pass up through Slane and up to the border where it would meet up with the A5 road up there. Indeed the Irish government (in the Republic of Ireland in the south of Ireland) had committed 500 million euros to the A5 (in Northern Ireland).

This was done under the North-South Peace Agreement, the Good Friday agreement as a way of building better connections between the North and the South. This was another sacred cow for both governments, North and South. Of course, this had been conceived without any Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), which has a broader take than an EIA, which only looks at projects. An SEA looks at plans and indeed policies, sometimes.

While I was doing this campaigning, I had gone back to university here in Ireland. I’d done a Master’s in law, in European law, so I had some training in Environmental Impact Assessment and SEA. That came in very handy in the Slane situation.

The situation in Slane was unique. I had been up in Slane to see the Rolling Stones when I was about 13 years old. From that and other visits, I knew the village very well. It’s got this very old rickety stone bridge that crosses the river Boyne. The existing road, I’d be the first to admit is a very dangerous road.


Next Post: Vincent Salafia: Brú Na Boinne Achieves Progress

Previous Post: Interview of Vincent Salafia: Carrickmines Castle Campaign to Hill of Tara Campaign

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